South Windsor volunteers build the past

March 11 — SOUTH WINDSOR — At 80 years old, Joan Walsh has spent nearly 75% of her life thus far giving back to her community — being in the PTA, volunteering with the local historical society, serving as the city’s constable.

Walsh didn’t start at South Windsor.

Born in West Hartford, he and his father moved to Rocky Hill after his mother died.

“I was 4 1/2 years old, and two years later my dad remarried and we moved to Rocky Hill,” says Walsh. “My high school is in Wethersfield because our town doesn’t have a high school.”


Who he is: Town constable, member of the South Windsor Historical Society.

Hometown: South Windsor. Raised in Rocky Hills.

Achievements: Worked to help restore Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse as a museum; active volunteer in town.

Quote: “You have to pay it back by living, raising your family in the city. … We live here for a reason.”

While at school, Walsh would play softball, ride his bicycle around town, and work on the school newspaper.

He started working at his first job while in high school.

“I work in a bank,” he said. “I trained at Hartford National. Then I switched before we got married. I went to Charter Oak Bank.”

She married her high school sweetheart, Warren “Red” Walsh, in 1961, moved to South Windsor, and have been married for 62 years.

“Who I marry makes a big difference,” says Walsh. “They say how (men) treat their mothers, is how their wives are treated. Well, I was treated very well. He would still open the door for me when we got in the car.”

She said she left the banking business after she became pregnant with their first son.

“We had three children in the space of four or five years, all boys,” he said. He would eventually have four.

He says he started getting involved with the local PTA even before his kids were old enough to go to school, starting a bowling league to raise money for the school.

Walsh was eventually elected president of the PTA, he said, a post he held for one term.

“During that time we raised a lot of money,” he said. “When another school in town found out about the bowling alley, getting a league, two or three other people called me and I arranged the same for them.”

It was in 1998, he says, when he started getting involved with the South Windsor Historical Society.

He said the group was actively recruiting new members to further the community’s plan to turn the Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse into a museum.

The school building dates from 1862, he said, and was the last of about a dozen school buildings not converted to homes or torn down.

“The historical community used it for meetings and then the city offered it,” he said. “We paid a dollar for it. June Lanza and Mike Lanza added bathrooms and kitchens to the building. We installed them all over town to have museums and tours.”

Walsh said he became treasurer of the historical society. With the help of a $20,000 gift and fundraiser, nearly $40,000 was raised to renovate the building and prepare it for tours.

“Even though it’s a municipal building, we still have to go through all the commissions, like June Lanza did. I went with her and got approval. When it was approved, it was because we wanted to have a museum downstairs,” she said.

The museum opened, and tours were introduced in 2001, he said, noting that it had become a rite of passage for every third grader in the school system to travel to the old school building.

During the pandemic, says Walsh, he’s opened the museum for family outings during the summer.

In December, every year for 15 years, she said, she had become Mrs. Claus in the school building.

“This year we have 400 adults and 96 children,” he said.

“It was our best year. People came because their kids didn’t want to go to the mall. They preferred to come to the school building. This year we had the Easter Bunny.”

The historical society is holding events at the senior center and at the Wood Memorial Library on Main Street, he said.

“We make a program,” he said. “We split the program with them. We pay half the fee for the speakers. We have a small entry fee and we split it between us.”

He said they brought in local people who had deep knowledge of the city’s history.

“I never knew how much history we have on Main Street,” says Walsh. “All is over.”

Right now, he said, the historical society is working on a fundraiser via the brick walkway, where people can buy bricks with their names engraved on them that will be placed on the sidewalk leading to the school building, which is currently being repaired due to drainage. problem.

“We’re going to drop the entire brick street,” Walsh said. “We will lay the proper foundation for it and deal with the drainage issues.”

Another act of civic service to the city that Walsh participated in was becoming a city trooper, which was an elected position.

He says he started doing it to keep himself busy after his youngest son, Rob, died.

“We raised four children in this town,” he said. “We are in our fourth home and want to give back.”

Although he has resigned from working with historical societies, he says he recently returned, volunteered with fundraising efforts with the goal of maintaining the school building, and was re-elected as the city’s police officer.

“I feel I have two more years to be able to do it,” he said. “By the way, we don’t go door to door. It’s just that we have to do it sometimes, and I’ve never encountered anyone who was rude. They feel comfortable dealing with the locals.

“You have to pay it back by living, raising your family in the city,” he said. “We’re here for a reason. I’ve seen a lot of growth.”

For coverage of local restaurants, cultural events, music, and diverse Connecticut theater reviews, follow Tim Leininger on Twitter: @Tim_E_Leininger, Facebook: Tim Leininger’s Journal Inquirer News Page, and Instagram: @One_Mans_Opinion77.

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